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Central Park is better than a dead shark

February 13, 2005

The artists Jeanne-Claude and Christo have graced Central Park in NYC with a 22-mile long array of colorful steel and plastic arches with hanging banners in them.  The work is called, “The Gates.”

You may remember Christo as the guy who wrapped the Reichstag in Germany, or who put a huge yellow curtain along a highway in California.  Oh, well, I guess his works are kind of pretty, and most important, he raises his own funds ($21m in this case.)  It all seems kind of silly, except that…

“The Gates” is expected to bring $80m worth of tourism.

Now, that’s art I can appreciate.  It’s beautiful and magical, and they’re not out to “challenge” anyone’s faith or sensibilities by throwing elephant dung on a crucifix or whatever…

…And to top it all off, the work is an economic gift to the community.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

Oh, I am such a philistine.  I have to admit I just don’t get the shark in formaldehyde.

What’s that about a shark, you say?  In 1991 a (con-?) artist named Damien Hirst paid to have a large shark caught, and he put it in a tank of formaldehyde, giving it the pretentious title of “The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living.”

Eventually Hirst’s shark was purchased by an American Billionaire (for $12m) and brought here to the US.  Unfortunately Hirst had no knowledge of proper preservation of large animals, and the thing is visibly misshapen and deteriorating.  Conservationists are trying to figure out how to restore and preserve the horrid thing.

Incidentally, Hirst wasn’t the first one to think of displaying a shark in a tank on public view.  That honor goes to an electrical supply house owner named Eddie Saunders.  He had it skillfully preserved and apparently put a lot more thought into how it should be displayed.  But it isn’t “art,” you see, because he was not an “artist.”  He was just a guy displaying his hobby, which was deep-sea fishing.

Apparently “art” is something an artist does.  And shelling out $12m for a badly-preserved dead shark, is something a rich idiot does.

Here’s a model for displaying public art, on Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s website:

To all visitors of The Gates:
There are no official opening events.
There are no invitations.
There are no tickets.

This work of art is FREE for all to enjoy,
the same as all our previous projects.

If anyone tries to sell you a ticket,
do not buy it.  This would be an act of
fraud because no tickets are needed.

Central Park is public space, open and
free to all people.  The work of art will be
completed on February 12, weather permitting.
- Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Update: I just found this 2002 article on BBC, Hirst art heads for space, in which a tiny painting by Hirst is affixed to a mars probe as a calibration instrument.

Is there no end of idiocy?  The article says “it is the first art designed to be sent into space.”  Apparently they forgot about this or this

Categories: Art, News
  1. February 15, 2005 at 11:37 | #1

    I was living in Southern California when Christo did his “lots of giant yellow umbrellas across the landscape” project.  On the one hand, it sounds ridiculous, on the other hand it actually *was* kind of interesting to see.

    Is it art?  No idea.  But they had to be taken down after a couple of weekends when gusts of wind blew one down on a tourist.

  2. February 16, 2005 at 11:23 | #2

    I do have to say, whatever you think of Christo’s work, it is drawing crowds by the thousands…

    I tried on two seperate days to get NEAR central park by car … usually you can get parking in one of the underground lots in the area, but not a single one had room… that is a huge number of people …

    I am going in this weekend by subway to get some good pictures of the display and hope to get a couple that are nice enough to post :)

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